Reviewby Ken Hargon, Mar 25th 2004
Orphen: The Revenge
DVD 1: Revenge
Orphen and the gang are back for a second spell-slinging season! Cleao wants to hit the hot springs for a rest, but winds up getting more than she bargained for! A mysterious man is after Orphen's head, and a strange woman has been following his party for the last few months. Magic, intrigue, danger and action herald the return of Orphen!
Ever since the venerable old Slayers franchise went down in flames some two years ago, the fantasy-comedy genre has had a hard time getting restarted. Rune Soldier and Orphen are, essentially, the only two choices any genre fan has. Luckily, they're both fun, well-executed shows (Rune Soldier being the better of the two), and should keep fans happy in the absence of a more popular title. ADV released the first Orphen series a few years back, expecting it to have a gigantic impact, releasing it alongside a poorly-received Playstation2 game. The series came and went, and now we've got the first volume of Orphen 2, the sequel series. The good news is, it's more of the same, so if you dug the first one, this one won't fail to please. The bad news is, it's more of the same, so if the first one didn't turn your engine over, this one won't fare any better.
The series follows the madcap adventures of the brash young Sorcerer Orphen, his ice-queen female companion Cleao, and his plucky, naïve sidekick Majic. Together they roam the countryside, encountering a host of unique and obnoxious characters that get in the way of whatever they're trying to get at. The episodes on this volume deal with a relatively complicated plot involving Orphen's death, a hot springs who won't let Orphen or his friends get anywhere near their hotels, a strange bespectacled girl and a whole bunch of other stuff. The story is set up reasonably well and follows the basic fantasy-comedy formula, which is a serious plot sprinkled with liberal doses of humor. Fans of the first show will eat it up.
Unfortunately, a few of the problems the first show has are still present here. We're still forced to suffer through the incredibly annoying antics of the two “troll” characters (although “trolls” in most fantasy series don't resemble midgets), one of whom hates Orphen and seems to show up at inopportune moments in nearly every episode. These two characters are an unfortunate eyesore and add many an unpleasant moment to an otherwise perfectly acceptable show. It's a shame they're still here.
It's hard to tell if the production values have gone down a notch; the first season had relatively high-quality animation and mostly decent character designs, but the quality hiccupped every now and then. The hiccups seem more frequent this time. Several static frames are very poorly drawn and the characters are off-model a lot; it's a very sloppy-looking show about half the time. The other half of the time, everything's smooth, fluid, and beautiful. Most of the character designs remain intact for characters from the first season. New characters have consistent design, although in some cases, it's a tad generic.
The dub for Orphen has always been a point of contention for fans. The English version of the first series was considered by many to be an unforgivable hack job; the story was almost completely changed from the original Japanese script, and a lot of questionable dialogue was thrown in. For Orphen 2, the dialogue is drastically changed again, although the plot developments haven't been altered. The characters say different things, but the intent and meaning is always about the same thing. Frankly, the English dialogue is better. The banter is snappier, the jokes are funnier, and the three principal voices do an amazing job bringing potentially dull characters to life. Special mention must be made of Shelly Calene-Black's note-perfect performance as Cleao. It's one of the few times the “angry, nasty anime girl” voice has ever been successfully pulled off in an English dub, and Ms. Calene-Black knocks it out of the park. Kudos to her.
It's been said a million times already, but if you liked the first season, go buy this one. All the pieces are in place for a successful return; the episodes on this disc hint at a much larger storyline brewing, so hardcore fans will have plenty of content to feed their addiction. The dub is a lot of fun to watch, and while the animation could use some work, it's a welcome addition to the struggling fantasy-comedy genre.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : C-
Art : B
Music : C
+ Decent storyline, fun for Orphen fans
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